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+TALK: INGRID RIEGLER

Part 2 of Karl Schmid’s conversation with U=U activist, Ingrid Riegler.

KARL
Straight women have HIV too. Up next.

Hello there, and welcome to +TALK on +LIFE where we’re all about turning positive into a plus. My guest today shared her HIV status with the world on World AIDS Day last year. I’m happy to be joined by Ingrid Riegler. Hi Ingrid. How are you?

INGRID
Hi, I’m very good. How are you doing?

KARL
I’m very well, thank you. I really like your story Ingrid, because and we’ll get to sort of how you found out about HIV and all of that in a minute. But so often we talk about on +LIFE and +TALK that people just think HIV is something that only affects gay men. I’m looking at you, I don’t see a gay man.

INGRID
No, totally not. No, I think it’s just an old belief from the 80s that it’s only a gay diagnosis, but actually it’s not anymore. And that’s why I’m here to talk about it and educate people on my social media as much as I can about HIV and U equals U.

KARL
You were diagnosed in 2006, I’ve gotta imagine it was really a shock for you, considering everything that was going on in your life at the time.

INGRID
Yes. So I found out when I was pregnant with my first child. It was a shock about the diagnosis but I had so much going on that I didn’t really realize about what’s going on actually. And also maybe a little bit, I have been an athlete my whole life. So I think also my athletic spirit made me push through my diagnosis. You can just go forward, you cannot change the past. So I said, I cannot change what happened. I can just live in the present for the future. And that’s what I did, but still I had this kind of secret. And I’ve always been a very open person that I kept with me for the longest time. That was something difficult for me. Very difficult.

KARL
I’ve talked about it quite a bit, sort of keeping that secret. And I think it’s something most of us who are living with HIV, certainly for a portion of the time that we’ve had it have kept it as a secret in one form or another or in some capacity. And we all just know how draining and damaging that can be to your mental health. Right?

INGRID
Totally.

KARL
So in 2006, this was before we were all talking about U equals U, undetectable equals untransmittable. What goes through your mind when you get that information and you are pregnant and the sort of the concern, obviously for your unborn child?

INGRID
Yes, totally. I had very little idea about HIV, like the general information that everybody had at the time. But yes, my main concern was my child, and what’s gonna happen with her. Would she be okay? Do I have to get rid of her somehow? I don’t know. All these kind of thoughts, more than about me, it was about my baby. But then, I had a great doctor. And she said, she will be fine. You just need to get on treatment and you will be fine, and the baby will be fine. At the time, that was one of the most important things for me.

KARL
Yeah. And then, you became pregnant with your second daughter. Was U equals U in your world or wheelhouse at that time?

INGRID
No.

KARL
But I’m guessing you felt more confident though based on the birth of your first daughter and what the doctors were telling you.

INGRID
I had at the time, no idea about U equals U. So I was in a very toxic relationship and I stayed in it for 18 years you guys because I had no idea about U equals U. And I thought, I had to stay with this guy forever because I felt worthless. And I thought, nobody else would like me with my status, but then, not that long ago, I found out about U equals U. And I also talked to my doctor back in Italy. I still have a very good relationship with her. She said, yeah, it is true. And I was like, what? This is like great news and I have to share it with the world.

KARL
We sort of have to take it upon ourselves really, to educate people about undetectable equals untransmittable. Do you get frustrated by people in the medical profession and society who are still not talking about this, especially when it comes to sex education or talking to patients? I mean, like you said, you only recently found out about U equals U.

INGRID
Yes. And I’m kind of sad, and I also get mad at times because general practitioners and also doctors or nurses that are not working in infectious diseases are not well educated about HIV. I had an experience with my second OB-GYN, when I had my second daughter. He did not know much about it. And so I was like, okay. And that was one other reason why I wanted to educate people because people don’t know and it’s frustrating.

KARL
And they need to know.

INGRID
They need to know. Totally need to know. Yes. I also had other women that wrote me on my social media and they did not know. And they stayed by themselves, alone because they had no idea. So they did not know that they could actually have a normal life, a normal sex life. You know, I always say everybody loves sex. It’s the best thing on the planet.

KARL
And it’s the one thing we all have in common ’cause we’re all here because two people had sex.

INGRID
I know, exactly. But nobody wants to talk about it. So we have to talk about it. We have to normalize talking about HIV because people are still back in the 80s and research and science have made such huge improvement that we have to talk about it.

KARL
Right.

INGRID
And it’s fundamental.

KARL
So you’ve started something on your personal Instagram account that you call on a positive note. What’s that?

INGRID
I started a series of… I wouldn’t call them interviews but I love to call them chats with HIV positive women around the world. It’s called on positive note and we talk about different topics. We talk about motherhood, pregnancy, being peer counselor around the world, spreading youth issue, all different topics, new relationships. When somebody is going into a new relationship, how to confront a new partner, how to talk about it to him because that’s also very important. People, sometimes they don’t know. Do I have to share my status? When do I have my to share my status? For everybody’s different, but I think it’s important that we talk about it.

KARL
The work that you are doing through this and through your own advocacy, letting women and people know that it is okay to be living with HIV. There’s nothing wrong with you.

INGRID
No, it’s just a diagnosis. It’s not death sentence anymore, and people need to know that. And I just don’t want… When I had my diagnosis, I felt totally alone. I did not know who to talk to. And I don’t want anybody, no woman, no man to feel alone, unloved or unwanted because we don’t have to go through this by ourselves. We are community, and so it’s very important to stick together.

KARL
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. Nobody and nobody should be made to feel less than for loving or for having sex with someone and doing something that is just so part of our human DNA. Ingrid, it’s been a real treat chatting to you. We’ll put all of Ingrid’s information up on the +LIFE website. We’ll also tag it on our social as well. Ingrid, thank you for joining me.

INGRID
Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.

KARL
That’s gonna do it for this episode of +TALK. Remember you can follow us across social media platforms. We are @pluslifemedia and the website pluslifemedia.com. Like I said, we’ll put all of Ingrid’s info up on there. Check out what she’s doing on Instagram. Until next time, be nice to one another, please. Please. It’s not that hard. See ya.

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